Keeping your hedge trimmer blade sharp is the best way to keep the hedges healthy. Dull blades make ragged cuts tearing foliage instead of cutting it cleanly, which can compromise its health.
Before starting your cutting session, you should check for the presence of animals, birds’ nests, bats, hedgehogs or even cats. Did you know that all wild birds, their youngs, their eggs or active nests are protected under the law? Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act – 1981 it is an offence to damage a nest intentionally while it is in use or being built and hedge cutting is highly likely to damage nests or cause them to be deserted.
Save yourself some time by spreading a plastic sheet on the floor below the hedge to catch the excess clippings. Once you’ve finished, use a brush or rake on the top to dislodge the clippings or your nicely trimmed hedge will appear unsightly.
Cut the vertical sides first with an up-and-down sweeping motion, and cut the top narrower than the base, maximizing sunlight exposure. Trimming it too straight could create bare spots at the bottom.
The top of the hedge should always be cut last; when you cut the tops of the hedges that are chest-high or lower, hold the trimmer at a slight angle (about 10 degrees from the horizontal) to move cut leaves and branches out of the way.
To cut a straight top, use the line formed by a twine strung between the stakes along the top of the hedge. Once you have the guide in place, keep the hedge trimmer at that height and walk along the hedge.
Watch out for dips in the ground, which can cause an uneven line. Before putting the finishing touches on the top cut, take a step back and check it from a distance, but the best practice is to err on the side of caution, rather than taking too much off.
The last thing is to finish the edges. A hard, sharp corner has less leaf material and tends to look sparse and ragged, so a 45-degree edge will give the hedge a softer appearance; a softer corner will also allow the hedge to shed ice and snow.
Once you’ve finished, clean the sap from the blades; a build-up of sap makes it difficult for the blades to move freely and cut efficiently. Lubricate when a build-up is noticed.